Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Figured it out

on May 26, 2011

Several months ago, after a giant jackpot was making headlines, I wrote about what I would do if I won the lottery. My responses were similar to most of the other posts this week: taking care of family and friends, having a splurge or two and donating money to charity. In that post, I was struggling if it would be better to “spread the wealth” and give smaller donations to a lot of charities or focus on just a few charities and give a more substantial amount of money so they can make a greater impact. Since that time, I think I have answered my question. Allow me to digress for a moment.

My commute takes me through Newark, NJ. If you are unfamiliar with the area, let me explain that, to put it politely, Newark is not a nice area. In fact, is about as far from a nice area as you can get, or at least the parts I’m familiar with are. There are several abandoned warehouses and factories along the train lines that are covered in graffiti and are being overrun with weeds. It’s a depressing sight, especially if you can imagine back to a time when these factories might have been fully operational, employing hundreds, if not thousands of people with decent jobs that would provide for their families. I ride by these factories nearly every day and am always struck by what a tremendous waste it all is. Real estate in the NYC metro area is at a premium and I can’t help but think this land could be used more productively than as a canvas for local hoodlums armed with spray paint cans.

In recent months, there has been some building in the surrounding blocks. First a parking deck and now what appears to be a retail plaza. It got me thinking about how the abandoned spaces could be better used. I thought how great it would be if someone would build a homeless shelter that would provide much more than a bed to those in need. I started envisioning a modern, airy space that felt more like a home than a prison or dormitory. I imagined a secure playground for children to play in and an onsite day care that would allow parents to go look for work with the peace of mind knowing that their children were safe. I saw a training classroom where residents could get assistance on building a resume and learning computer skills, or improving their literacy. I saw English language classes and trained counselors that would visit regularly to help diagnose and address mental health issues. I thought about how incorporating green technologies and could help the shelter save money and lead to a healthier environment for the residents. And I thought how all of these things together could combine to create a respectful environment where people who have fallen on bad times could get the assistance they need, and actually might have a chance to break the cycle of poverty.

I’m not naïve enough to think this would be a panacea for Newark’s problems. But I’d like to think that a model like this shelter I’m envisioning could have a significant impact on some people’s lives and could truly help them succeed in life. So after much debate and thought, I think I’ve found what I would do with my millions if I won the lottery.


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